State Dropout Reduction Activities
MassGrad (High School Graduation Initiative)
In fall 2010, the U.S. Department of Education selected Massachusetts as just one of two states for the federal High School Graduation Initiative award and one of 29 projects total nationwide chosen for funding out of 184 total applicants. The Massachusetts grant project (MassGrad) focuses on the 133 high schools throughout the Commonwealth that exceeded the statewide annual dropout rate of 2.9 percent in the 2008-09 school year. Massachusetts will receive $15 million over the next five years through the MassGrad project to support statewide and local efforts for high school dropout prevention, intervention, and recovery. The Department released a press release in early November 2010.
MassGrad Key Activities:
- Dropout Prevention & Recovery Work Group
- MassGrad Implementation and Planning Awards
- MassGrad Coalition Challenge Awards
- MassGrad Gateway to College Start-Up Awards
- MassGrad Leadership Council
There are no state funds currently available for general dropout reduction use, however, the Department's College & Career Readiness and Learning Supports and Early Learning (OLSEL) Units coordinate a number of grant programs that support student engagement and success in partnership with districts, community colleges, and other organizations to help students succeed in school and be prepared for higher education, rewarding employment, and responsible citizenship. All of these programs can be a useful part of a district's comprehensive strategy to raise graduation rates and students' readiness for college and employment.
Massachusetts currently has in place an Early Warning Indicator Index (EWII) for grade 9 students that indicates their risk levels for not graduating on time. The Department is also developing and Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS) to identify students kindergarten through high school that are potentially "off-track" for grade-level or developmental age.
Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery Commission
In August 2008 the Massachusetts State Legislature passed An Act to Improve Dropout Prevention and Reporting of Graduation Rates, which established a Commission to make recommendation on 10 topic areas. The Commission included representatives from a variety of youth-serving state agencies, the state legislature, and community organizations. The Commission work was also shaped by testimony at three public hearings. The Executive Office of Education released the final Commission report in October 2009. The Commission report, Making the Connection, provides findings and recommendations in four main areas: 1) new statewide expectations; 2) early identification; 3) effective prevention, interventions, and recovery; and 4) responsive reforms and budget priorities.
Alternative Education pathways to high school graduation are universally acknowledged pillars of a viable and effective response to the dropout crisis The Department is working to enhance the field of Alternative Education across the Commonwealth through annual trainings, including regional networking events and state conferences. The Department recently released an Alternative Education frequently asked questions and promising practices document, and continues to work toward increased sharing of promising practices across the state.
In the 2007-08 school year, the Department added an Alternative Education data element to Student Information Management System (SIMS) to increase knowledge about Alternative Education in Massachusetts through new methods. The increased capacity in SIMS will provide the Department important student-level information within each Alternative Education program/school. The Department will also use these data to increase targeted technical assistance and to promote and replicate promising practices in the Commonwealth.